Spotlight on Red Burgundy: Bruno Clair Gevrey-Chambertin Clos St. Jacques Premier Cru 2006

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A handful of premier crus in the Cote de Nuits are best listed amongst the Grand Cru vineyards. Some even surpass the lesser Grand Crus. One of the noblest of these ‘super’ 1er cru’s is Gevrey’s Clos St. Jacques. Bruno Clair is one of the top producers of this vineyard (though there are only 5 and all are good).

On the Clos St. Jacques

The Clos bears the accidental history of failing to abut the great Chambertin. This the sole reason for denial of Grand Cru status. Those seeking a headier Gevrey should look to Clos St. Jacques for, though the elevation here is the same as Chambertin and the soils a similar white marl, the fruit ripens later and produces a fleshier wine.

Clos St. Jacques is one of only two premier crus in Gevrey that run the entirety of the slope. The vineyard is south-east facing, and each of the five producers owns a ‘strip’ of land that runs from the top to the bottom of the vineyard, meaning each is able to obtain ideal ripeness and balance.

The Tortuous History of Bruno Clair

The history of Bruno Clair is long and tortuous, involving a huge family feud and split up of one of the greatest estates in Burgundy (Clair-Daü). Clair-Daü was one of the key sources of Dijon clones that have since been isolated and understood as amongst the best Pinot Noir clones in the world. Eventually, some of the vineyards coalesced a generation later with Bruno Clair, who holds a fair amount of Marsannay along with 1 hectare of Clos St. Jacques inherited from his mother. The old massale-selected vines of Clair’s St. Jacques plot were planted in 1957 and 1972.

The domaine is run with no chemical fertilizers, minimal treatments and careful attention to the needs of the vines (copper is used, for example, but Clair also notes that too much can asphyxiate the roots of the vine). Vines are partially de-stemmed. In the cellar, fermentation is with indigenous yeasts and takes 2-3 weeks. Aging ranges from 16 – 22 months in oak (between 20% to 50% new).

The history of the Domaine’s reception in North America is a testament to the power of the super-critics and the total oversight of key properties these critics led most consumers into. In the 1980’s and 90’s, Parker scored Bruno Clair’s top wines (Clos St. Jacques and Clos-de-Beze) in the mid-80’s, so no one in the U.S. paid attention to this Domaine, which had always been more focused on elegance than extraction. By the time scores had soared in 2005, the wines had started to come onto the radar of collectors where they have remained ever since.

Heart of Iron

This is a wine of richness and elegance, with silky perfect tannin, translated as easy drinking but highly intellectual. Rich, almost but not quite stewed cherry fruit, with a potent ferrous quality in a significantly endowed mid-palate. A finish of tremendous length and poise leads one to contemplate on one of the world’s great bottlings of Pinot Noir. It is one of the most complex and profoundly structured Pinots and Burgundies I’ve had. Just starting to drink solidly now, but I think it needs at least 2-5 more years for proper early maturity to set in.

Excellent+
$195 at BCLDB

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